Hidden speakeasy-type bars have been popping up all over the country, and it looks like restaurants also want to offer a taste of that exclusive experience. The Bedford, in Chicago’s artsy Wicker Park neighborhood, is too much of a hot spot to be a secret, but it is discreetly tucked away two flights underground. Bits of its original incarnation as a bank remain in the space: Walk through the large circular vault door to find a marble-floored lounge, where the walls are lined with old gold safety deposit boxes. The high table where you’d fill out your deposit slips is near the bar and the teller’s barred window get refashioned as funky light fixtures in a private dining room. The food is just as rich as the décor.
Chef Mark Steuer crafts rustic American fare for dinner and late-night snacks. “Our philosophy is using really simple ingredients and elevating them,” Steuer says. Have smaller bites like hand-cut frites drizzled with béarnaise sauce or deviled eggs topped with hot sauce and powdered bacon. Or try entrées like mussels steamed with chilies, garlic, spring onions, Schlitz and cream, and venison carpaccio with mushroom aioli, picked apple and squash, marinated mushrooms, radish and herbs.
The restaurant also serves shareable sides, like creamed kale and a must-try creamy macaroni gratin oozing with Gruyère. “We think of ourselves as a modern-day supper club, so it’s a place you can come in and just have a cocktail or it’s a place you can come and spend your whole evening,” Steuer says. While the restaurant cashes in on its bank theme, it also incorporates the local music scene in the mix. Photos of Chicago-centric bands and artists hang on the walls, and when rockers Wilco were in town in December, Steuer created a prix fixe menu inspired by their albums (think “She’s a Jar” sweet potato pie with torched marshmallow). It all adds up to give The Bedford that exclusive feel.
Photos Courtesy of Jesse Lirola